“[Pain] removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul…God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Annie, I don’t know why Julie Norwich was ravished by the flames. I don’t know why Philip the neighbor boy is dead. But I do know that God is powerful, that His domain cannot stop at the edge of human suffering, and that the power of Christ is made perfect in weakness. Let me tell you why. Maybe my story will mesh with yours.
God gave us the choice of evil knowing we’d choose it. He knew our sin would force us out of Eden. We touched our hand to the stove, but our Father let us.
Sin is suicide. Choosing it was our protracted attempt at self-murder, and for many it will be successful. But Christ laid himself down, at the cross, on the stove, so that we will never touch the burner again. And when we die, not in a hospital or a highway accident but at Golgotha, then the shriveled sinful heart within us will die, and the true heart will be cleansed with hyssop and beat free again.
I cannot see God as a victim in this sordid drama. He is the Author, and He let sin into the story for a reason: because a story with characters who sin and are saved is a better story. Darkness in a story makes the light shine brighter. The Incarnation is a greater act for good than the Fall was for evil. The goodness of it is enough to cover ten thousand Falls. We lost Eden so that we could find something better.
The serpent is the enemy that Christ is even now putting under his feet. But the devils are not all subdued. Christ is ransacking the world, seeking to save the Lost, rousing a deaf world with its own pains. Until the story’s glorious resolution, there will be plot threads we don’t understand. We might be contemplating Philip the suicide and Julie the burn victim until Judgment Day, but at that day we will understand. Even now, I believe in a story where their afflictions have meaning.
God’s story is the only one that holds ours and gives them happy endings. We need to see it like we need to breathe. We can never let our pains take us anywhere we can’t go—we cannot pretend there isn’t a story, or that there isn’t an Author.
In the best epics, the good characters suffer much before their final victory. The Author doesn’t hate them, He is looking out for them, and for the story itself. We are the sons of the author, protagonists, and Chapter the Last holds great things for us.